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November 29, 2007

Brian Head Video Contest - Part II

I kinda busted Brian Head's chops a couple weeks ago.

So they drop me a shout out and update the rules:

Here are a few changes to the rules for the contest:

First, if you have background music in your video, it will need to be removed before submitting the video unless you can provide written permission by the musician(s) to broadcast their music over the Internet royalty-free.

Second, if your video is posted to YouTube or another website, you can e-mail a link to along with your contact info (thanks to Justin at for the idea!). We will, however need a copy of the original video on CD or DVD in one of the formats listed below if you are one of the winners.

This is way cool.

What is not cool is using YouTube for CNN debates. I won't even comment on what happened at the debates, because others have done it already.

YouTube--cool for video contests, not cool for legitimate political debates.

Posted by Justin at 01:55 PM

Brian Head Interconnect Update

Brian Head's latest newsletter is out with updates on the Interconnect:

Chairlifts 1 and 8 are completely finished.

Great progress is being made on the Skier Bridge. The steel beams are in place for the center section and the decking is going into place. The supports for the outside sections will be finished this week and the steel will be put into place soon after. Despite the obvious drawback of not having much natural snow up to now, it's really helping to speed up the construction of the bridge.

We are planning an Interconnect Project launch in December. The date hasn't been determined yet, but when it is, it will be announced on and an announcement sent out to Brian Head Connection subscribers.

I spoke to someone close to the resort and our conversation was basically this--if Brian Head failed to deliver the bridge and interconnect this season, they would completely lose face with the town, the folks from NV, the local homeowners, and the taxpayers that built the bridge. That is why they have pushed and pushed to get it done. The lifts are in and load tested. The bridge is the hold up. The resort has less control over the bridge than anything else, so it isn't like there is a lot that can be done. We are now about two weeks overdue for completion, but given that we are still in White Ribbon time, it is less of an issue.

My concern has always been that I was almost bit by the folks at the Lofts at Brian Head that have failed to deliver as promised. There are a half a dozen other proposed condo or housing projects that are shelved due to lack of interest or lack of ability to come up with the money. I want credible results before I start jumping up and down and throwing $1M of taxpayer money at a project.

And all of this brings me back to the new proposed upgrades to the base area. Now, the resort has delivered on something major to upgrade the place. It isn't a bunch of 30 year old triple chairs anymore. And next year, they are planning to update Giant Steps with a High Speed Quad. They have some street cred that they can deliver on their plans. That makes me more inclined to trust their ability to improve the resort and invest in improvements that benefit the town, the homeowners, and the day trippers that come up.

And I am praying for the Pioneer Cabins lift to go in and open some more challenging terrain.

Posted by Justin at 01:42 PM



Brian Head Resort announced today the opening day for its 2007/2008 winter season. The Resort will open this Saturday, December 1st with limited terrain on its Blackfoot chairlift (also known as Chairlift #3) located at the base of the Giant Steps ski area. The Resort hopes to have a freestyle terrain park featuring rails and boxes available if not this weekend, as soon as possible. The Giant Steps day lodge will also open with full services, including equipment rentals, retail, food and beverage, and ski and snowboard lessons.

“We are excited that we’re finally able to open this weekend and offer some skiing and snowboarding for our guests”, said Henry Hornberger, the Resort’s General Manager. “We know our guests have been patiently waiting, and with the recent colder temperatures, we’ve been able to make enough snow to open for the season." " We will continue with our snowmaking efforts, and open additional lifts and terrain as conditions permit."

Brian Head Resort is Utah’s best-kept secret, but not for long. Nestled within the Grand Circle of National Parks, this Alpine destination provides unparalleled scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities. Located just 14 miles from Interstate 15 at exit 75, Brian Head is a convenient getaway for families from the Southwestern desert region. Fantastic snow conditions, uncrowded trails, and affordable lodging make the Resort the ideal ski retreat. In the summer, the mild climate and pristine mountain terrain offers the perfect haven from the heat. Brian Head Resort is undergoing a far-reaching renaissance that includes new infrastructure, new amenities, new terrain, and new housing opportunities. It is the perfect place to escape and get in on the ground floor of a whole new Resort experience.

White Ribbon o' Death. But it is skiing. A little late, but it is a La Nina year. There is supposed to be a storm brewing, but it looks like it is moving to the east and going to dump on CO while skipping Utah.

Posted by Justin at 01:36 PM

November 27, 2007

Pop Warner Update

The Far West Steelers are West Valley Champions of the Jr. PeeWee Division. Over 20 teams in the West, and Jake's team is atop them all. 11-0. Of the top 7 other teams in the West Valley, we have beaten 5 of them (the Crusaders twice) on the way to our West Valley title. We defeated the Grand Firecats last weekend in an incredible game for the West Title. They were 10-0 going into the game.

Here is how the playoffs are going to end. The undefeated Gilbert Monsoon will play the Steelers at 9:00 AM on Saturday at Chapparal High School for the Jr. PeeWee State Title.

Let me give you a little info about the Monsoon. 11-0. Scored 213 points in those 11 games. ALLOWED ZERO. 11 Shutouts. Not scored on this year during the regular season or the playoffs.

Jake has played hard all year and is surrounded by great kids and some excellent athletes. It has been fun watching these kids and this has been a special season. I will update on Saturday and it should be a great game.

Posted by Justin at 03:08 PM

November 23, 2007

Colorado Snow Blog

Another new blog out there worth a read. Colorado Snow Blog is a good read and is getting added to my links.

He has news on the latest storm:

Finally, a winter storm has hit the state albeit short-lived. Tomorrow (Thanksgiving) seems to offer only clouds and cold weather. The following new snow is being reported around the resorts in the last 24 hours.
  • Arapahoe Basin: 3 inches
  • Breckenridge: 6 inches
  • Copper Mountain: 4 inches
  • Crested Butte: 1 inch
  • Keystone: 4 inches
  • Loveland: 3 inches
  • Vail: 4 inches
  • Winter Park: 6 inches

This is good news for Colorado.

Posted by Justin at 10:21 PM | Comments (2)

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

On Tuesday, after not really being invited to have dinner with anyone, we decided to go it alone this year. Turns out that we had been invited to eat with my uncle Brent and grandparents, as we usually do... they just forgot to tell us. Until Tuesday night, right after we had bought all the stuff for our place. I realized that this was the first Thanksgiving ever that we have done as a family of five, without everyone else around. Part of that is that I already had plans. Plans for later today. And if things go as I am hoping, I won't be skiing the week of New Years. I will be in Pasadena.

It is a day to give thanks, not to think of what is coming next. The year is almost behind us. Lindsey is almost 3. Jake is almost 11. Jarrett is growing up and about to turn 7. I spent yesterday afternoon running to Wickenburg with Jarrett and listening to the Suns game. He is ready to try going to another game, even though he knows it will be loud. And he cannot wait to ski with me and Jake. But he keeps making me promise to take him with us, not put him in ski school. He wants to hang with his big brother and dad.

Lots to be thankful for. My kids are healthy. Tera is happy. Our jobs are going well. We get to spend plenty of time together. But two weeks ago, my grandmother went into the hospital with stomach pains and last week had bowel surgery. She has been fighting to overcome an infection and a perforation. I am so thankful that she is here for another holiday with us. We are heading up there for Christmas.

I hope that everyone that reads the site (all three of you) enjoys the blessings of the holiday season and Thanksgiving. I am almost thankful that there is no snow because instead of being at the condo, we were in our home enjoying a dinner together at the table instead of on a bar stool at the counter or on the couch.

Posted by Justin at 03:12 PM | Comments (3)

November 21, 2007

Brian Head Polka Dots Turning to Ribbon

It looks like the White Polka Dots of Death as off-piste dubs them are turning into a ribbon at Brian Head.

The Kraft Family has a great timelapse webcam setup that gets most of the Giant Steps mountain. You can really see the progress on the main BH webcam and on Kraft Fam.

Still several good snowmaking days or a good storm away, but they are making snow as weather permits. Looks like there may be a good storm brewing over the next week that will at least turn the mountain white. I am hopeful that skiing will be open BY CHRISTMAS. I am trying to be optomistic, but we have had zip for early snowfall.

Posted by Justin at 10:52 AM

Phil Jackson on the Laker's Defensive Woes (h/t Rob at Say Anything Blog)

This is just awesome:

NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA has spoken with the Los Angeles Lakers about a comment coach Phil Jackson made following Tuesday night's game in San Antonio.

The Spurs made 13 three-pointers in their 107-92 victory, and Jackson was asked if too much penetration was leading to open outside shooters.

"We call this a Brokeback Mountain game, because there's so much penetration and kickouts," Jackson said. "It was one of those games."

I am not sure that the Lakers were using the backdoor play before penetrating, but good comments from the Zen Master.

Hey, wait, let's check with Caroline at Eagle Valley Blog. Apparently there are some stories surfacing from the area that Kobe likes backdoor penetration himself.

Posted by Justin at 10:42 AM

November 20, 2007

New Goings on at Brian Head

It is happening. There is an interconnect. Bridge is going to be done shortly. Lifts are already in and being load tested.

The resort is requesting town approval to build the new village at the Giant Steps base area. The MDP already has two more lifts approved that will create extensive new advanced terrain.

It is an interesting dillema that the town and the resort are in. There is a contingent of folks in Brian Head that would almost prefer that the resort go away ala Elk Meadows. Because most homeowners are Vegas residents, locals that live in Brian Head are the only ones that have a vote and a say in what the town does. And the resort is in the process of trying to improve, constantly dealing with the forces that like things the way they are.

I am still trying to get the Master Development Plan. I have some generic details from Ski area, but this is a group dedicated to STOPPING NEW IMPROVEMENTS.

Here is what I know:

  • Brian Head lacks extensive Advanced and Expert terrain
  • Brian Head makes up for that lack of terrain by providing a great family atmosphere
  • Brian Head has plenty of uphill capacity to serve their current customer base
  • Brian Head is the closest "real" resort to Las Vegas and is the only Utah resort within a day's driving distance of Phoenix
  • Brian Head is undergoing a huge new expansion push of new condos
  • The resort just completed the Interconnect which increases skiable terrain by 50% and provides probably 50% more uphill capacity

So this begs the question--why is the resort increasing uphill capacity by 50% and adding terrain? It isn't like there is a problem with not enough skiable terrain or lift capacity, except maybe on holiday weekends and when lift closures happen. Why are developers building condos? Why put in an expensive base area?

We are seeing that some real "flakes" are trying to develop condo projects at Brian Head. The Lofts made promises they cannot keep and are over a year behind schedule. Maybe a year and a half behind. Have barely moved dirt on the second phase that was supposed to already be done. The real estate bubble and lots of other factors are probably going to hinder a project whose condos start at a half a million bucks at a resort that has no real rental market.

And I assumed that a resort that had not made a single improvement in 30 years wasn't committed to building the Interconnect or installing the new lifts. That the town was going to build them a bridge to nowhere. That all of this amounts to a gift to the resort with no benefit back to the town. But my lifts are done and my bridge is in and there is a bunch of new snowmaking.

I am so stoked to eat my words. I want to eat my words about skier visits and market share increasing, but it is too early to tell and this is a La Nina year and that probably means lack of snow is going to derail a lot of the early traffic. I am not sure what all the expansion is going to do from here, but this is a good sign for a sleepy resort in a sleepy town.

The resort is a great place to teach your kids. It is a great place to go and relax. I hope someday it will be a great place for advanced skiers, will have a booming condo market, and will be more than a daytrip resort for Vegas folks. Apparently that is what the resort hopes too, and what the developers hope. I am not sure it is what a bunch of the locals that vote and run the town want, but the only thing I can do is register to vote in Brian Head and cast a ballot.

Posted by Justin at 05:11 PM

Brian Head Skier Village (h/t Scott Byrd)

I remember the A-Team from the 1980s. "I love it when a plan comes together." Well, it looks like Brian Head has a master plan and they are trying to get it to come together.

Scott Byrd at Brian Head Insiders Blog reports on the new plans being laid for the skier village at Brian Head (all pictures courtesy of Scott):

The Brian Head Ski Resort seeks approval from the Brian Head Town Planning Commission to develop a new 500,000 square foot development consisting of commercial, residential and just plain old prime recreation and luxury resort property. This development is known as the Brian Head Skier Village and seeks to be the focal point of Brian Head. Although its economic benefits for the town are something almost nobody can dispute, locals are torn, finding it difficult to accept the proposed development, making the Skier Village a controversial discussion.

The Skier Village will bring potentially 270 additional condos that will be sold as a condo/hotel project. An additional 60,000 square feet commercial space will represent the central focus or “hub” for retail shops, ticket windows, ski schools, rental shops, deli(s), coffee shops, etc. Included will also be a skier cafeteria to handle 300 skiers with outdoor and fine dining with a lounge. You will also find a state-of-the-art fitness facility with pool and private club for members, owners and guests.


Giant Steps is in the background and this would replace the lodge at the base area of Giant Steps.


The map of the area looks like this:


More to come in my next post.

Posted by Justin at 04:40 PM

Where is my White Ribbon of Death

It is Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Normally, I am dreading the WROD, but this year, it actually is more appealing than the alternative--no skiing yet at Brian Head.

I guess that is just one side of the equation. The other is that I have two alternatives to drive to Brian Head. I can go via Page and cross Lake Powell or I can go up via Kingman and Vegas and cross Lake Mead. Both are pretty scary places right now. I am not saying they are empty, but I am saying they are going to be if we don't end the drought.

Colorado is still slow to open most places. Many of the major resorts are struggling to get their WROD open including Vail. Check Caroline at Eagle Valley Blog's post on that:

Vail, Colo. – November 15, 2007 – Vail Mountain resort officials announced today that they are moving the resort’s 2007-08 season opening day from Friday, Nov. 16 to Wednesday, Nov. 21. Snowmaking crews have been making snow on Born Free trail since Nov. 1, but early November snowmaking temperatures have been marginal. Last evening a cold front dropped into the region producing the first significantly cold temperatures that allowed for a great night of snowmaking.

She has dozens of pictures of the mountain. And it ain't good.

This is from the Brian Head Resort Webcam:

White Ribbon of Death

Posted by Justin at 10:40 AM | Comments (1)

November 19, 2007

Brian Head Video Contest

Brian Head is running a new Video Contest without using Youtube.

We want to see all the great video that you've shot out on our mountains, so we're having a contest to see who's got the best of the best footage. First prize will be a 2007-08 adult season pass (or a voucher for a 2008-09 pass if you've already got yours), second prize will be a $100 Snow Dough Gift Card, and third prize will be a $50 Snow Dough Gift card. The winning videos (and maybe even some non-winning videos, if they're good enough) will be featured throughout the Winter season on the website, and the winner's photo and a short bio will be posted on the site.

Here are the rules...

2. Footage may be submitted on a CD or DVD in .avi, .mp4 or .mov format.; or you may send ftp information to

All entries must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, December 7, 2007. The winning entries will be announced on Friday, December 21, 2007. Send CDs or DVDs to: Video Contest, Brian Head Resort, P.O. Box 190008, Brian Head UT 84719.

First, cool idea. I am really surprised that this is not user interactive and posted on Youtube. Local Phoenix Radio Station 98 KUPD did a Youtube video contest a couple months ago.

I have offered to assist Brian Head with online marketing via my site, similar to the posts that I did for Deer Valley Resort promoting their freestyle competition via Youtube and even provided the Marketing Manager for Sunlight Mountain Resort an account to post information to the site. I have sent e-mails to Brian Head since I provide tons of content about the resort, to have them add me to the press releases list and contact me when they have something interesting and want to put the word out.

I find it odd that they blow me off. I mean blow me off. Nada. Don't even return e-mails. I offer to provide assistance helping get the word out about the resort and even informed them that when you put in the Google search terms "brian head interconnect, my site is actually listed higher than theirs. Nada still.

Information exchange is not a one directional thing anymore. Blogs and things like Youtube are changing the way people get information. Let's hope Brian Head wises up. Erin Grady at Deer Valley gets it. She actually returns my phone calls and e-mails. So does Dax at Big Sky. Dave Smith at Snowbowl. Try Googling "snowbowl snowmaking" for instance.

Why is it that if you want information about Snowmaking at Snowbowl or about the Interconnect at Brian Head, you are gonna get both via my page? Why do I pop up on Google above Brian Head and just below Snowbowl and Savethepeaks?

But Brian Head continues to blow me off.

UPDATE: Spoke to Ron Burgess at the resort. Great conversation. I might have just been talking to the wrong people. Ron was genuinely interested in what I had to say and had actually read the site before we talked. Like I said, I have never met a person up there who isn't friendly. I think there is a lot of optimism about things and after talking to Ron, I am genuinely optomistic. I thought for a while that the expansion was a smoke screen because the town had stayed unchanged for so long. Progress is being made and plans are moving forward. The Interconnect is just the start. And it is done. I will be skiing on it in December if the Snow Gods cooperate.

Posted by Justin at 10:13 AM

November 15, 2007

Football Update

I am still struggling to come to grips with the premature end of Wickenburg's season. On the third play of the game our three year starter, Coach's son QB got hit in the ribs after he released a pass. He played through the entire first half in pain before going in at halftime with us leading 14-7. He could not put on his pads after the half. Could barely move. Within the first minute of the 3rd QTR, Round Valley had tied the score after a forced fumble caused by Round Valley's Evan Hamblin. A possession later on 3rd and 7 from the Wick 35 with the backup QB in, we ran "Gangster Pass". Wick is in Purple and Gold and as you can probably guess, the results were not good. Evan Hamblin for Round Valley forced the fumble that led to the tying score, caught both of their offensive TD passes, and caught this Wickenburg pass in the flats for the go-ahead score to the house to end our season in the state quarterfinals at 11-1.

Evan Hamblin's INT wins game for Round Valley

After this play, Drew Vaughan put his pads back on and played the next 16 minutes unable to come to the sideline between plays and barely able to hand the ball off and get from the huddle to the line. His last desperation throw with 45 seconds left was tipped, intercepted, and resulted in the final score of 28-14.

I was close to the team all year and spent every Friday night with them since the middle of August, working the sidelines, having dinner with the players and coaches, talking to other coaches, watching film. It was a great year. Any time you win 11 games, it is a great year.

The doctors sent Drew for x-rays immediately after the game when he was unable to stand up figuring they would diagnose bruised ribs. Nope, Ruptured spleen. Played an entire football game with a ruptured spleen. I was sitting with the coaching staff when word came that it was a spleen and he was going into surgery.

11 Wins. 11-1 for the Wranglers. After the Oregon loss, that is what ASU is shooting for against USC and Arizona. Jake still has a chance to go 12-0 and win a state title. But one of my teams is done--my Wranglers. Now I am left to root for Pinetop-Lakeside's Blue Ridge Yellowjackets (who happen to be my second favorite team for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is their three straight titles over Boys Ranch). They are two wins away from a 13-0 season and a title.

Season is winding down. Congratulations to the Round Valley Elks (who have the coolest home uniforms ever) and to the BR Yellowjackets, Show Low Cougars, and the Coolidge Bears. I am going to the Semifinals to watch the games this Friday, but it was so much nicer to have a horse in the race. Jake plays at 8:00 AM at Westview High against the Deer Valley Crusaders, a team we beat in the second game of the season 14-0, in the West Valley semifinals. ASU is two wins away from a BCS Bowl, probably the Rose Bowl. And the Cardinals are only a game back of the Seahawks for the NFC West. The Suns are 6-2, but it isn't basketball season just yet.

Posted by Justin at 12:08 PM | Comments (2)

School Awards Time

In September, I wrote about Jarrett receiving the 1st Grade Math Award on the same day that Jake received the 5th Grade Math Award. Weird, but only Jake's teacher called us first to tell us about the awards ceremony.

Yesterday, Jake's teacher called that he was getting an award again. His assembly was at 8:30, usually the younger kids have theirs first. So Tera and I get up early (and before 10:00 AM is early for me) and go to the school for Jake's award ceremony. We didn't stick around, but 20 minutes after we left, Jarrett got an award too.

Both of the got the respective "Creative Writing Awards". Kind of weird that my kids both got the math award the same day, then both get the creative writing award the same day. The two are as different as you could possibly be. Jake is an extrovert. Tall and thin. Copper hair. Jarrett is an introvert. Shy, to the point that he hides behind me in public and covers his face when people look at him. He is muscular and big. Brown hair. Quiet and sensitive. Jake is loud and outgoing.

I am so proud of my boys. Creative writing? Geez.

Posted by Justin at 11:59 AM

Think Snow - Nike Extreme Video (h/t Ben Carr)

Welcome to the La Nina year in the Southwest. Ben Carr sent me a link to this video from Nike ACG that is a must watch. That'll be me in February.

Posted by Justin at 10:16 AM | Comments (2)

November 14, 2007

Great Tips on Skiing/Travelling in Megeve (h/t Megeve Mike Beaudet)

Mike Beaudet runs a private ski tour and instruction company based out of Megeve, France. Interesting concept that is missing in the states. Instead of donating $500 for a 4 hour "private" lesson to a resort, plus paying the cost of your lift tickets and gear, you pay what is essentially a private instructor (poacher) who does private lessons and helps facilitate the transaction, plus provides expert coaching. Mike is a Level 3 Certified PSIA instructor, plus has all the European certs, etc., but instead of making $10 an hour plus tips (maybe $15-20 for a Level 3), he does private bookings and group lessons. He saves you enough on the trip to more than cover his instruction fees, plus knows all the local restaurants and MULTIPLE AREA RESORTS, meaning that he can help you find the best lines at a dozen resorts instead of being locked in. Anyway, enough pimping for Mike...

Mike is doing articles at on skiing and this one is a must read if you plan on skiing in the Geneva area at any of the many resorts:

From Megeve you can easily ski four ski areas in less than a 25 minute drive, (subject to weather and road conditions)! If you’re willing to push your daily drive to one hour you can ski in Italy and get to French ski areas that will give you access to Swiss Alps areas!

A nice little restaurant, at the end of the day, in each ski area you visit is not to be resisted and allows you to taste the local fare which can change due to the specificities of each region and valley!

When renting your car insist that you take possession on the Swiss side "sector" of the Geneva Airport and NOT the French side! When booking online be sure to select Switzerland as your destination country to ensure your rental is at the Swiss side.

This is most important as the car that you hire will be equipped, standard, with: snow chains, a ski rack, and a Swiss Auto Route Pass. This will save you in drop-off charges and tolls, ease of transporting skis, and driving distance as the French side is much farther to get into and out of than the Swiss side is to the destination ski areas.

Should you rent on the French side, all of the above is an extra! Also, try and gas up when possible in Switzerland as it less expensive.

Add in that Mike can find discounts on gear rentals, lift tickets, and certainly food and hotel accomodations, and it is worth talking to him before you travel.

If you are from the states, for comparable airfare costs, you can ski Europe for comparable money as skiing in the Rockies (and comparable travel times from the East coast). And that is with the premium on the Euro due to the Dollar's drop in exchange rate. With some help and planning, you can ski Europe with private lessons, transportation, lodging, food, and an expert guide for far less than it would cost anywhere in the states, even at a budget destination. Have some wine and enjoy some great food at off mountain prices, plus ski a variety of resorts.

I keep saying I am going to Europe to do just that, but it looks like another season is lost for me travelling. Just too much going right now to take the time. Next winter, I am certain that short of financial catastrophy, I will head to Europe for a week. I am also considering a summer trip to Chile. That is actually even more reasonable if you are willing to "slum" it, you can do it for next to nothing. Hostel style living in Chile, but upscale in Europe.

Posted by Justin at 10:08 PM | Comments (2)

November 13, 2007

Tips Up - The Ski Journal's Latest Release

The Ski Journal has a new issue out that includes a couple of the best ski photos I have ever seen. It always does and it is so hard to describe how good the photography in it is. The first 20 pages are "Tips Up" that is nothing but incredible photos.

Check page 64 for a great article on Arizona Snowbowl.

The article says it best. The entire debate comes down to belief. I don't think anybody can be swayed one way or another on whether reclaimed A+ water is a good idea or snowmaking is a good idea or the expansion should occur. And when you really come down to it, usually people don't have a problem with just one part of the plan. It is an all or nothing thing. They either want it or they don't.

The Ski Journal is well worth subscribing to. It isn't nearly as filled with ads as most of the ski magazines. Actually, there are hardly any. It belongs on your coffee table and the combination of the photography and the quality of the magazine give it a completely different vibe.

Posted by Justin at 08:32 AM

November 12, 2007

Kansas City Star on Family Skiing (h/t Skiing on Sundays)

The Kansas City Star has a nice article on skiing with kids that Jim Carty at Michigan's Ann Arbor News posted in his "Skiing on Sunday" column. Bookmark Skiing on Sunday. It pretty much rocks.

Anyway, from the KC article:

Now this buff 6-footer from Chicago was side-slipping down a bunny trail with a pert, red-headed 7-year-old. He was there when she took her first group lesson, he took her up on her first chairlift ride and when she fell down in tears, he brushed off the snow and wiped her nose.

“I know I’m getting rusty,” he said. “But I wouldn’t trade Emily for anything. My family’s what matters now.”

Baker, 45, doesn’t know it yet, but if Emily is a typical grade-schooler, it won’t be long before she’s keeping up with her dad on those groomed intermediate cruisers. She’s snowplowing around the corners now. But after a week of lessons, most beginners are riding the chairlifts in perfect confidence and skiing — if a bit more slowly — the same intermediate cruisers their parents have skied for years...

“Eight and 9-year-olds who spend five days in ski school will be making parallel turns by Friday,” said John Buhler, ski school director at Breckinridge Ski Resort in Colorado. “The kids aren’t afraid, and their learning curve is shorter. When you show them something new, they’re quicker to try it.”

I wrote earlier that unless the snow is great, I am not a fan of having the kids in ski school for more than a couple of days. Especially kids over 7ish. The important part is for them to be able to get on and off the lifts, stop easily using a Wedge/Snowplow/Pizza (depending on what the ski school calls it), and make good turns doing wedges. As a parent, the biggest thing to work on from there is their downhill foot on arched turns and getting it to come parallel. Not rocket science, but you coach on that point and getting skis parallel will come with time.

I say that not to dismiss the value of ski school. They certainly will help teach the kids. And if your kids are bratty, don't listen, or are whiny and you are a parent that has little patience or wants to vacation away from the kids, I can understand the motivation to have them in ski school. It is really important to ski with the kids, even though it means giving up some of your own ski time. Take a semi-private lesson with the kids or make absolutely sure that if they do go to ski school, you get there at 2:30 or whenever they come off the snow for the day and take a few runs with them. You want to let them show you what they learned that day. Let them talk about it for the rest of the afternoon. But especially, ride a lift together. Sit and talk and so forth.

I love hearing stories of parents spending time teaching their kids and skiing with their kids. I love skiing pow and cutting freshies and skiing with my buddies on steeps. But skiing with my kids is probably more valuable. And because I put in the time on greens with Jake when he was young, now at 10, he goes everywhere on the mountain.

Posted by Justin at 09:23 AM | Comments (1)

November 09, 2007

White Ribbon of Death is Coming to Brian Head

The new Brian Head Connection is up.

Friday, November 2, 2007: Brian Head Resort has officially begun its snowmaking efforts in anticipation of another great winter season. Early Friday morning, temperatures dropped low enough to allow the Resort to start up nearly 30 snowmaking machines to help out Mother Nature in the snow department. Snowmaking efforts will continue as temperatures permit...

“We hope to have the expansion project wrapped up later this month and ready to go for December.”

I won't concede that my pessimism about the Interconnect being done by the opening of the season wasn't warranted. Fact is that the season opens on November 17th. That is the date. And the Interconnect is not going to be completed by that date. But if you don't open on time, you buy yourself a couple extra weeks and we fully expect that the Interconnect will be done by the first couple weeks of December. The hangup is the bridge. I have been saying that is the sticking point all along and that it was probably behind schedule. Not as much as I thought, but part of that is that the weather has been very mild and they are making good progress.

If it had been a good early snow year and the resort was opening on time on both sides, the bridge would be further behind due to weather and the resort would be open on time instead of probably opening the end of November or early December--at least opening in a meaningful way.

But again, credit where credit is due. I didn't think that the resort would be done this year at all when they originally pitched the idea of a taxpayer funded bridge back in the fall of last year. I am still not sure that the town is going to get a huge bump in sales tax revenue from the bridge/interconnect, nor that these specific improvements increase the property values or spur enough development to justify a million dollar bridge that realistically only helps the ski resort, if it does that right away. I think it helps get the resort sold or makes it more attractive to investment companies, but that is more of a philosophical issue than a practical issue.

Reality is that whatever philosophical disagreements I have over the role of government, how tax dollars should be spent, and whether this is a good investment, I am seriously stoked about some new terrain on the mountain and the ability to ski between mountains and not ride the bus.

I am thinking snow right now. Damned this La Nina anyhow. But the Snow Gods need to reward my faith and my tithing via property tax to resort improvement projects. I am at the point that Pedro Cerrano was in in Major League:

I pissed off now, Jo-Buu. I good to you, I stand up for you. If you no help me now, I say f*** you, Jo-Buu. I do it myself.

Snow Gods better come through. Man made White Ribbon of Death isn't what I want for the Interconnect.

White Ribbon of Death

Posted by Justin at 12:37 PM | Comments (1)

November 04, 2007

More on La Nina

This site makes things look even worse:

The La Nina climate signal in the West seems more reliable than the El Nino signal. This is especially true in the Southwest. El Nino generally brings wet weather there in winter, but there are a number of exceptions. La Nina brings dry winters to the Southwest, and there are no exceptions, during the past 65 years. That is, La Nina brings much more consistent consequences in the Southwest.

Posted by Justin at 03:04 PM | Comments (1)

La Nina's Effect on Southwest Skiing

The Montrose Express has some info on La Nina:

MONTROSE — La Niña's influence on southwest Colorado ski resorts may result in less snowfall than normal, said Jim Pringle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

"It looks like it could be an interesting winter," Pringle said. "La Niña is gonna be a little stronger than what was indicated even a month ago. The stronger a pattern is, the greater the confidence that these events with above and below normal (conditions) will occur."

Last year there was a moderate El Niño pattern through winter months. El Niño refers to an event in which sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean are above normal. La Niña, also known as "El Viejo," occurs when such ocean temperatures are below normal.

"Sea surface temperature patterns influence jet stream flows and jet stream flows drive storm tracks," Pringle said.

In the case of La Niña, the jet stream tends to fall through the Pacific Northwest. This could result in above-average snowfall through areas including the Great Lakes and Northern Rockies. Steamboat Springs appears likely to receive above-average snow this winter, he said.

"La Niña has been closer to above-normal North and below-normal South trends," Pringle said with regard to snow conditions.

Snowfall in the San Juans could be average or a bit below normal. The National Weather Service predicts La Niña's effect on New Mexico and Arizona to be much more apparent, with less precipitation and higher than average temperatures.

This does not bode well for Brian Head, Sunrise, or Arizona Snowbowl who had poor winters last year despite a weak El Nino.

Last season did not conform to predictions based on the El Nino, so I am hoping that for the Southwest, this season will not suffer because of La Nina.

Posted by Justin at 02:55 PM

Chi Tribune has Rundown of Ski Area Improvements in the Rockies

The Chicago Tribune has a list of the major Rocky Mountain ski areas and their improvements in today's edition. A sampling:

Locally popular Arapahoe Basin (888-272-7246; ) nearly doubles its size with the addition of Montezuma Bowl, located on the backside of the existing slopes. Its 36 new runs range from intermediate through expert in difficulty and offer terrain featuring groomers, chutes, glades and wide-open bowls...

Down the Interstate at Beaver Creek the new Riverfront Express Gondola connects the ski area to the town of Avon...

New proprietors have taken over at Steamboat. Intrawest, owner of Canada's Whistler Blackcomb, bought the resort from cash-strapped American Skiing, and the purchase has ignited a flurry of development. Mountain additions include new lifts, regraded terrain, additional snowmaking, improved parking and redesigned trail signage. Around the base, real estate projects seem to be sprouting faster than dandelions in a spring meadow...

Read the rest. Big Sky, A-Basin, Brian Head, and Alta all have new improvements that I am going to try to hit this year. I might get to Steamboat, but this winter is pretty packed and it is looking like another year of staying mostly in Brian Head until the condo sells.

Posted by Justin at 09:02 AM

November 03, 2007

Ann Arbor News has a Different Take on Affordable Skiing

Jim Carty has a great take on affordable skiing at the Ann Arbor News:

You could, incidentally, get four tickets to a Tiger game, with four cokes and four hot dogs for $40 this year ... just like you can get a Colorado Pass for around $400, or less than the cost of five single-day lift tickets to Vail.

If you adjust for inflation, I'd guarantee that four-for-$40 baseball deal is either as cheap, or cheaper, than you would have paid for a similar combination in 1960.

But unlike our apocryphal baseball purist, Ms. McClure ignores the fact that in many ways, skiing has never been more financially accessible.Season passes are, at most resorts, at an all-time low. Air fares and equipment are historically cheap and car ownership is at an all-time high. It's easier for a kid in Detroit to drive to Mount Brighton or fly to Vail than it was in 1960 or 1990.

The issue isn't really price, though, it's that ski areas and the people who run them do nothing to court urban, or even young, skiers because the big money is in attracting couples who have a combined family income of $250,000 or more and talking them into either paying $500 a night for a room, buying a $50,000 timeshare or fractional, or - if they have the bucks - spending $500,000 or more on a studio slopeside condo.

Is that elitist? I'm not sure. To me, elitism is when you actively limit access to a select few. It's still possible to ski just about anyplace outside of The Yellowstone Club for a pretty reasonable price ... if you plan ahead, buy used equipment and pack a lunch.

I'm going to do some more thinking on this one and update with a few more links later in the week, so check back then.

Agree. He hits a few points I have made for the last two years. First, Season Pass deals are all over. Second, the ski areas aren't doing enough to market to Urban Areas and middle class folks. And third, their biggest concern is keeping the wealthy folks that drop the big money happy and they don't want swamped with too much traffic or lower end customers.

I spend a lot of time highlighting pass deals (Colorado Pass, Big Sky Frequent Ski), lower cost resorts (Wolf Creek, Brian Head), and how to buy gear at the end of the season and on e-Bay. Skiing is accessible if you do all of these things, but you still gotta do pretty well financially to ski even then. But if you do these things it moves the financial threshold from $250,000 per year family income to around $100,000 per year. Still quite a hefty income category.

Just do the math. Family of four. Gotta have coats, ski pants, gloves, goggles, helmets (hopefully), thermals. I know my gear costs around $500 per person and you cannot buy this stuff used. I buy stuff at sales and am always looking for end of season deals, but a good jacket is still $125-150 and a pair of ski pants is at least $50. Gloves are $25 for a good pair. A set of good thermals is $30-40 for a cheap pair. Helmet is $50-75. Goggles are at least $40. And all this is low end to middle quality gear. We are pushing $500 for just the clothes. Let's assume that you own instead of rent. E-bay boots and skis and bindings and poles are going to run another $400 for anything even servicible. Let's call it $750 for per person for a family of four.

Then you have lift tickets. For a week, even getting a pass deal, let's say that you get a Colorado Pass for $400 per person. $1,600 bucks for four. Then you gotta stay somewhere. If you stay in a hotel in the next town, it may run $75 a night, but you have to rent a car. That is cheaper than a condo. Let's assume a week's car rental for a 2WD Camry is $200. Then the hotel is $500 for a week. Stop at Costco from the airport and get your food for a week instead of eating on mountain. We won't count that. Just the $150 you spend on an occasional energy drink, Mountain Dew, burger, slice of pizza, etc., in the lodge. Total of lift tickets and hotel is $2,500. You fly Southwest and get a steal from wherever into Denver. $100 a ticket. That is another $500 after airport taxes (and because I like round numbers). $3,000.

You have $3,000 for equipment (one time, but another $500 a year for replacement stuff that gets worn out or for gear the kids outgrow). Add in $3,000 for food, lodging, car rental, and airfare. We are at $6,000 for a week of skiing (all inclusive).

Now, do the projections. For a family of four at the top 10% of all income earners in the US threshold which is around $120,000 GROSS INCOME (again round numbers), that works out to spending 5% of your total gross income to take your family for a week of skiing, cutting every corner and lowballing it all the way. The only way you can do it consistently is to live in Reno, Seattle, Denver, or Salt Lake City, or any of the other smaller mountain communities where there are few if any jobs that pay $120,000 a year. If you live close, you can avoid most of the travel charges and use your Colorado Pass a lot more.

You cannot make affordable skiing affordable to most folks. If you are cheap like me, you can take your family skiing on $120,000 a year. Otherwise it is day trips to the local resort in Wisconsin or Michigan. You are not getting the Colorado Pass type deals.

I still think that the Sierra Club and rich folks don't want the resorts overcrowded.

Posted by Justin at 12:36 PM

November 01, 2007

Brian Head Revisited - The Positive Side

I was speaking with an acquaintance from Brian Head earlier. I said, hey stop by the site and check out what I have to say about Brian Head, the Interconnect, etc. The response:

Not so flattering.

I have spent a lot of time paying attention to the negatives lately of the resort. I went back and read most of the 90 or so posts I did about Brian Head and it strikes me, most are either about the snow (or lack of snow), the Interconnect, the Real Estate market, etc. Very little is about why I just purchased my season pass, own a condo, and am looking forward to the season. It is time that I go back and highlight what I like and don't about the resort. This is gonna be long, so let's start at the beginning. First the positives:

1. Proximity. Location, Location, Location. Brian Head is 3.5 hours from Las Vegas, about 7 from LA, and 7 from Phoenix. It is the closest resort to Phoenix (not counting Sunrise and Snowbowl). It is Interstate the entire way from Vegas and only the last 45 miles ever has snow.

2. Great Snow. Not legendary like Alta. But 400" and the snow comes early. Not A-Basin early, but usually they have a good base by Thanksgiving and the entire mountain open by mid-December.

3. The weather. It isn't that cold compared to other resorts. That is good and bad. It is bad for snowmaking and for spring skiing, but is good becuase there are fewer nasty cold days than some of the resorts farther north.

4. People. I have yet to meet anyone from Brian Head or the resort that weren't friendly and outgoing. Most homeowners and condo owners don't own for the prestige of having a place (see Vail, Aspen), they own because they like Brian Head. There are some investors and you get idiot renters and dumb kids like all resorts, but Brian Head generally has good folks that will sit and talk and treat you well.

5. A Family Friendly environment. Jake and Jackson feel safe and take the shuttle between the mountains and back to the condo. The kids programs are outstanding. The instructors are great. Everyone down to the lift ticket sales people are great. A few of the lift operators are more on the punk kid college student side, but certainly not as bad as most resort's lift attendants and a lot of this comes from the fact SUU attracts a different kind of college student.

6. A clean lifestyle. I guess that probably hails from the Mormon influence, but Utah's smoking bans and alcohol laws tend to annoy some of my friends, but more often make the trips more pleasant (as I don't smoke and don't really drink myself).

All of these things have a flip side of course, but I wouldn't own at Brian Head if not for all of these major positives.

Posted by Justin at 02:13 PM